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Monthly Archives: March 2022

Drawing Trees Week 6: In Open Countryside

March 30, 2022

A Steep sided Valley at Hubberholme, North Yorkshire
Photo by Jo

This week we are painting trees from a distance, perhaps a view from a window or from the ridge of a hill looking down on a wooded valley. Instead of being in a wood we are out in the open, looking down or up, to a wooded area or group of trees. The sides of the hills in the photo above are well grazed by sheep and the group of tall ash trees takes centre stage.

The challenge this week is to make a painting of trees in the landscape. Although the word is land-scape I prefer to split it rather differently to labour an important point. I like to think of the vegetation including trees becoming the cape or mantle clothing the lands, hence it is a good idea to establish the topography of the land before clothing it with forests or groups of trees.

It is also essential to make a note of the light conditions. In the example above light is falling very strongly from the left lighting up the slope on the right. The steep sided slopes would look entirely different if the light were from a different direction or on a dull day when the light is more diffuse. The most challenging weather, especially when painting outside, is a bright breezy day when clouds are scudding across the sky casting fast moving shadows as they pass.

Below are a few more of Jo’s photos giving examples of the sort of reference you may like to work from.

Looking down on a Wood in Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire

See how the cloud shadows are falling on the land, and how dark in tone the area of woodland appears.
The same view as above but cropped differently. Think about how you may like to crop your reference for maximum impact. In this crop the gap between the trees where the road passes through becomes the focal point. What do you want to make the focal point of your composition? This is best established by making thumbnail tonal sketches before launching into the final work.
Looking down on a meander in Upper Wharfedale.
Note the diffuse light and soft shadows under the trees.
Towards the Langdales
See how individual trees can be seen in the foreground and those in the distance become more of a texture. Here it is very clear to see the importance of establishing the land forms first before working on the groups of trees in the foreground.
Sun and Mist at Pietracervara in the Parma Apennines
Seen early morning from my window.
Early Morning Mist Pietracervara
A slightly different view; the misty effects in both could be achieved by gentle washes and lifting out in watercolour.
Cloud shadows on the Apennines at Pianiletto
Across the Apennines from Pianiletto
Fresh greens and the last of the cherry blossom
Woodlands below Pianiletto
Coming to grips with the underlying slope into the valley here is more difficult so here I would concentrate on the rich textures and different hues and tones of this wonderfully mixed woodland. Greens dominate, but there is also yellow, russet, silvery and greenish grays, and slightly lilac tints with deep contrasts of dark trunks and spangled white; another tapestry of vegetation.

The images above should provide ideas for working from your own reference. Best would be from a place you have walked in or visited.

Your paintings;

Wind on the Meadow
Pastel by Maryon
Beyond the Trees
Acrylic by Mali
Tracks, Gates and Distant Trees
Watercolour by Heather
Deer and Trees at Windsor
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Ascot Heath
Watercolour by Sarah
Overlooking the Valley
Watercolour by Ann
Valley with Lake
Pastel by Anne C
Looking down the Loch
by Kate
Castle in the Woods
Watercolour by Liz
Below the forest: Glenbranter House 1
Watercolour by Virginia
Below the Forest: Glenbranter House 2
Watercolour by Virginia

Drawing Trees Week 5: At the Water’s Edge

March 23, 2022

Aspens and a Willow on the Cam
Quink ink by Jo

This week’s challenge is to paint a picture of a tree or trees at the water’s edge or even standing in water. Look for reflections and also how the tree is physically related to the land and the water. Are it’s roots exposed at the shoreline? And is it by a stream, a lake or on the coast?

The ferocity of the current caused by a flash flood may uproot and drag trees downstream, especially in a narrow gorge. Branches or whole trees may remain lodged on the banks. The picture below is of Catrigg Force in North Yorkshire where a tree has been tossed across the stream below the fall. The gorge itself is full of tall beech trees reaching for the light above.

Catrigg Force, North Yorkshire
Acrylic by Jo

The drawing below shows the ravages of winter storms on the Suffolk coast. Tree trunks roll around on the beach at Covehythe where whole roads lined with trees have fallen into the sea. The trunks are often sawn off as here and only the lower part and roots remain. Seeing these on a misty February morning was an eerie experience.

Trunks on the Beach, Covehythe
Pencil by Jo

Looking North there were whole trees strewn on the shingles below the cliff and more trees can be seen clinging on before meeting the same watery fate.

Trees on the Beach, Covehythe
Pencil by Jo

I would like to see your paintings the reflect the mood of the place which will be related to the weather and time of day as well as to the landscape. This may be much more successful if it is a place you know well or have at least visited. A lakeside tree in calm weather may suggest peace, or if their is a breeze and a dancing in the trees perhaps a playful atmosphere. However, if the sky is dark and storms are raging you may be depicting a more dramatic scene.

If you are feeling particularly adventurous don’t be afraid to use your imagination. If you want to depict a storm with a flash flood and branches flying I suspect there will be few references in your photo collection or sketchbook, but you may have recorded the aftermath, so you could think about how it would have been during the storm.

December Sunrise on the Stour
Pastel and graphite pencil by Jo
This was an exceptionally cold first weekend in December a few days after the after the Stour had been in flood. This was the calm after the storm. Areas of thin ice glazed the river surface. Note how different the reflections look on the ice compared with their appearance on the flowing water.

Decide first on your subject and think about the aspect you wish to convey, then try out some rough sketches from your reference pictures before embarking on the final composition.

Your Paintings:

Between Gaios and the Paxos Beach Hotel
Watercolour by Sarah
Reflections
Pastel by Anne C
Bridge with Trees
Ink and Watercoloour by Kate
In the Savill Gardens
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Watercolour by Ann
Sunset
Watercolour by Ann
Trees by the River
Watercolour and pastel by Mali
Melancholy
Watecolour by Anne H
Lakeside Reflections
by Heather
Pastel
by Liz
Winter Stream
Pastel by Liz
Virginia Waters
Quink by Maryon
The Tranquility of Loch Eck
Charcoal and pastel by Virginia

Drawing Trees Week 4: Woodlands

March 16, 2022

Stream running through Judy Woods
Pastel

This week’s challenge is to paint or draw trees in a woodland setting. The woodland floor may be a significant part of the painting as in the pastel painting of Judy Woods above. This is a mainly beech wood on a slope, with many ancient trees with haunting shapes and and exposed roots. It seems to breathe mystery.

Ancient Beeches in another part of Judy Woods
Photo by Jo

Another mysterious wood with an entirely different character is Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. Here stunted oaks encrusted with moss and ferns emerge from boulders of granite.

Over the last three weeks we have been exploring the shape and structures associated with a variety of trees. In a woodland there will be other considerations as the background may be full of the myriad twigs and small branches of more distant trees. There may be an under-layer of shrubby plants and the floor of the wood is often far from featureless, so part of this week’s challenge will be finding a way to describe the backdrop for the main trees in the composition.

A Winter Wood, Covehythe
Pastel on reddish brown paper
This painting spotlights a single tree with a backdrop of the other trees near the Suffolk coast North of Southwold. The most distant trees are almost a texture of overlapping strokes of pastel pencil. This is a small scale work about A4 size.

Your work may have a single tree or a group of trees as it’s main focus or as in the two examples below be a tapestry of the tree shapes and colours.

After the Fire
In the valley of the Nuns outside Funchal, Madeira a tapestry of blackened Pines and fire bleached Eucalyptus was seen against red rocks about a year after the event. Below a green layer of he undergrowth was already returning.
Charcoal and pastel on terracotta coloured paper 50 x 70cm
May in the Woods, The Pines, Surrey
Another tapestry of trees, this time Pines and Birches
Pastel on brown/grey paper

Perhaps start by coming to grips with the shapes of your chosen woodland, by doing some small preliminary sketches. Think about the composition possibilities at the same time, then plan out your final composition. Think about which medium would suit your purpose and how you are going to use the medium. Also look at the tonal range; is it generally light and airy or dark and mysterious. Then think about the colour. Ask questions; which colours predominate and are there any small areas of colour that add to the composition by their purity, or by their contrast in tone and hue to their surroundings. In the photo of Judy Woods the little speck of a red anorak draws our attention and at the same time gives a sense of scale!

Your paintings;

Lane through the Woods
Watercolour by Ann
Down to the River
Watercolour by Ann
Forest Green Forest Gold
Watercolour by Anne H
Woodland Path at Bluebell Time
Pastel by Heather
In the Great Park
(detail)
Watercolour by Maricarmen
Tree in the Forest
by Kate
In the Woodland
by Anne C
Conifer Wood
Watercolour and Pastel by Mali
Standing and Fallen
Watercolour and pastel by Mali
The Light Beyond
Ink drawing by Sarah
Long Shadows in the Young Wood
Watercolour by Sarah
Forest Walk
Pastel by Liz
Bluebells
(unfinished)
Mixed media by Maryon
In Glenbranter Forest
by Virginia

Drawing Trees Week 3: The Struggle for Life

March 9, 2022

Willows: coppiced or lopped then left to grow, their trunks
becoming twisted and split as in the photo below.
Note the sense of movement in these forms.
Sketched by Jo near Flatford Mill on the Stour

Storms, Lopping and other Struggles for Survival

Very few trees reach their perfect natural form. They are either hemmed in by others, damaged by storms and animals and of course, lopped, pruned, and coppiced by people.

More Willows on the Stour
Part of the same walk as the sketch above
Photo by Jo
The same photo as above but in grayscale
Whether you are drawing or painting in colour, remember that the tones are vitally important to the composition. Note the palest and darkest parts of this image.
Stunted Hawthorn fighting its way out of the limestone
Photo by Jo
A Tangle of Roots
Ink and Watercolour
This is a tangle of overgrown ivy roots rather than the aftermath of a storm uprooting a tree. The challenge of depicting overlapping is much the same though.

Project : Draw a tree that has been caused to struggle for survival by; a challenging environment, lopping, a harsh prevailing wind, lightning damage, being uprooted etc.

Trees stuck by lightning can literally be torn apart but wind damage can be just as severe and result in the tree being uprooted and the tangle of roots made visible. Like branches these root tangles overlap and thread through each other even more so than branches above ground.If a tree near you has come down do get out with your sketchbook and a camera. Make sketches and/or photograph from several viewpoints before homing in on a composition for your final drawing.

The drawing may be a whole or part of a tree but should tell something of its history; probably a whole tree where it has grown with a distinct list to one side because of a prevailing high wind, but in the case of a fallen tree, perhaps just the exposed roots. Either way try to make an interesting composition.

Other suitable subjects would be stunted trees growing out of stoney ground, or choked by Ivy.

Your drawings:

After the Storm
by Virginia
Growing in the Wind
by Kate
Pollarded Poplars
by Mali
Growing through the Railings
Pencil by Sarah
Cut Down
Pencil and Watercolour by Heather
Bonsai
Pencil by Ann
Urban Cedar, Windsor
by Maricarmen
Feaver Tree Roots;
Seen by a dry river bed, Umfolsoi Game Reserve, South Africa
by Maryon
Soft charcoal, graphite sticks and embossing tool
Struggling Out and Up
pencil by Anne C
Stressed
by Liz
Shaped by the Wind
by Anne H
Lakeside Tree
by Anne H

Drawing Trees Week 2: Scars, Bark and Branching

March 3, 2022

Spanish Chestnut Trunk, Cliveden
Ink, pastel and white gouache on green paper

This week we’ll get close up and look at more of the textures and structural details of trees. So we’ll look at their natural marks, bark patterns and branches, and also at healed wounds.

If you are fortunate enough to have a garden with trees you may like to embark on a project discovering its marks and structures. Perhaps start with the trunk and it’s bark and any scars from lopping or pruning, and observe how the patterns of bark change where a branch develops.

See how many small branches emanate from the stubs left behind when a branch is cut off. Sometimes this leads to huge thickenings as in the drawing of the Spanish Chestnut trunk above.

If you don’t have a garden try finding a tree nearby or work from photographic reference.

An Ancient Healed Wound on our Apple Tree
Ink and coloured pencil
Years before this became our apple tree, a major limb had been excised and the scar overgrown with lichen and moss.
A feast of texture!

Project : Make visual notes of at least two of the following in your sketchbook and then make a considered drawing of a part of the tree that sustains your interest. It’s not a comprehensive list so feel free to add your own ideas.

1.Branches: observe whether these follow any sort of pattern, or in the case of palm or banana trees how do the leaves emerge and what happens to the dead leaf bases?

Olive Branches
Photo by Jo

2.Bark patterns and marks as they appear on the main trunk and branches; also some trees shed bark pieces, some of the pines do and pieces can be gathered and drawn indoors. More detailed studies of these can appear quite abstract.

Olive Trunk and Bark
Photo by Jo

3.At branch points sketch how the pattern of the bark changes where new growth emerges

4.Scars and new growth

5.Exposed roots at the base of the trunk

6.Make notes of other life like lichens and moss that cover the bark in places introducing different textures or patterns.

You will have gained a huge amount of information about the tree in this drawing exercise and have found mark making equivalents for some of the patterns and textures observed on the way. Finally make a drawing of a tree, choosing not to draw the whole tree this time, but a part you find particularly interesting.

Your drawings:

Rhodedendron Trunk, Wisley
Mixed media drawing by Sarah
6B pencil, black ink and walnut ink, pastel pencil
Branch
Pencil by Sarah
The Ancient
Pencil by Ann
Stump
Pencil by Ann
Ancient Oak
by Maricarmen
How surreal: I feel the oak is watching us!
Prunus serrula, the Tibetan Cherry
Graphite on A3 paper by Maryon
Apple Tree Trunk and Main Branches
Pencil by Anne C

Heather has drawn from the same reference in three different media!

See below;

Olive
Pencil by Heather
Olive
Black ink on white paper by heather
Olive
White ink on black paper by Heather
Birch bark
by Mali
Branching out in Winter
by Mali
Trunk at Wisley
by Mali
Trunk and main Branches
by Anne H
Branch
by Kate
Base of Trunk
by Virginia
Exposed Roots by a River
by Liz